Thirty-three year-old art teacher Elena Duggan was crowned MasterChef Australia’s season 8 winner. Her complex dishes, interesting flavour combinations and artistic plating wowed the judges throughout the competition.
We’ve taken inspiration from some of our favourite Elena recipes on the show and have given our own simpler versions for you to try at home, all of which take under 30 minutes to prepare.
Modern Australian Tuna Nicoise
Everyone loves a nicoise, but Elena brought the dish bang up to date with her deconstructed, modern Australian spin on the classic.
The ingredients Elena used in the salad included things like kipfler potatoes, bush tomatoes and samphire, not readily available in South Africa. Luckily we have a tasty Tuna Carpaccio with pickled ginger, carrots and radishes that is super light and takes just 20 minutes to make.
Cool as a Cucumber
Elena showed the true depth of her creativity when she created one of the most delicate and intricate dishes on the show. Her Cool as a Cucumber salad featured a cucumber and apple broth and salad, charred cucumber roses, and gin-infused cucumber, topped with lime and yoghurt snow.
If this sounds too fiddly for you, we’ve got a simple 20-minute Thai-inspired cucumber salad, perfect for a summer’s day.
Spanish Pork and Rice
Spanish Pork and Rice is the “flawless” dish that put Elena on the judges’ radar early on in the show with Matt Preston saying: “This is one of the best things we’ve ever eaten on MasterChef” while George Calombaris declared, “This is a contestant who could win MasterChef!” How right he was.
While Elena’s dish featured pork three ways – including pork tenderloin in the pressure cooker, pork caramel and pork floss – our easy, one-pot, Slow-Braised Spanish Pork recipe – that takes just 30 minutes to prepare before roasting – still packs a punch with sherry and figs to create a sweet, sticky sauce. Serve with Elena’s Spanish rice.
Twice Cooked Lamb with Lamb Jus, Macadamia Nut Puree, Pickled Beets and Vegetables
Elena’s Twice Cooked Lamb cemented her position in the grand finale, earning her a perfect 30 out of 30 score. “It sends shivers down my spine,” said George.
There are so many incredible elements in this dish, from the buttered caramel carrots to the mind-blowing lamb bone sauce, but if like us, it’s all too much to accomplish before a dinner party, we think you will love our easy Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder recipe.
It’s a one pot wonder that takes just 15 minutes to prepare before you pop it in the oven on a low heat for six hours while you get everything else ready.
If you want to add some chefy flair, serve Elena’s memorable Macadamia Nut Puree with the lamb.
Elena’s Mandarin dessert was a true MasterChef masterpiece that looked way too beautiful to eat.
Once again, Elena showed her mastery of interpreting the hero ingredient in several different ways. This time, the humble mandarin was turned into a panna cotta, a jelly and a granita. We’d be happy with just one of those elements!
Mandarins are hard to come by in South Africa but if you’re inspired to make a fruity panna cotta, our sister magazine, Essentials, has a 20-minute mini mango panna cotta recipe that offers the same zingy flavour. You can even make it the night before!
If you want to give the dish an Elena-inspired twist, decorate each panna cotta just before serving with Marigold and Nasturtium flower petals and some fresh slices of mango.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Stack, Cumin Tuile and Pancetta Praline
Elena preferred savoury dishes throughout the show, even though it was a dessert from Heston Blumenthal that she eventually triumphed with. However when she did do a dessert, she opted for clever sweet and savoury combinations.
Her Pumpkin Ice Cream Stack, Cumin Tuile and Pancetta Praline got Nigella’s attention in the early rounds and was the first dish of Elena’s that was selected to be tasted.
While pumpkin is not generally used in desserts in South Africa, our sister magazine Garden and Home has a heavenly and oh-so-easy Pumpkin Tiramisu that you have to serve at your next big family function.
Apple, Cheese and Bickies
For a truly decadent ending to a meal, nothing beats a cheese platter. While Elena’s Apple, Cheese and Bickies was one of her “simpler” dishes, it still consisted of an incredible seven elements including apple sorbet, fennel and apple gel and wattleseed coffee crumb.
If this sounds like a day’s work to you, opt for our simple, yet impressive blue cheese and sesame triangles that take under 15 minutes to make. Best of all, you can make them in advance and even freeze them for impromptu dinner parties.